Sunday, 20 November 2011

Myanmar force Malaysia work hard for win in SEA Games

It was better late than never as Ahmad Fakri Saarani ended a tedious Sea Games football semi-final against Myanmar with the only goal five minutes from time at the Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta yesterday.

Coach Ong Kim Swee was sweating buckets in the VIP seating area of the stadium as he served a one-match touchline ban as time ticked away with Myanmar proving to be stubborn opponents.

Kim Swee, however, breathed a sigh of relief as Fakri turned a loose ball into goal in the 85th minute after Irfan Fazali fluffed a sitter from Izzaq Faris Ramlan.

The coach admitted it was not the best of displays from the defending champions after facing Indonesia less than 48 hours   in their last match.

"We didn't play well in the first half, it was the price we had to play after beating Indonesia 1-0.

The players were tired but in the second half they showed good character to go after the winner.

"I told them to keep pushing forward and not to give up until we managed to get the goal," said Kim Swee of his half-time pep-talk.

As Kim Swee resorted to passing down hand-written notes to the bench, assistant coach Hassan Sazali Waras took charge of the match.

It was Hassan's decision to replace Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim with Izzaq which turned out to be the turning point of the match.

"The coach sent down two notes but in the second half I had to make decisions on the spot.

Syahrul was not getting enough crosses in so I sent Izzaq on and put Fakri back on the right flank.

"Although it was Izzaq who delivered the cross, the change had the effect we hoped for," said Hassan.

The win came at a price though as Izzaq succumbed to a knee injury late in the game and is out of both the final tomorrow and the following two Olympic qualifiers.

Myanmar coach Stefan Hansson said the better team won despite his side having had two extra days of rest.

"We could have gone into extra-time and won as the Malaysian players were cramping. We faced a better team today than in the group stages and we were beaten fair and square.

There's nothing more to it," said the Swede.

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